The CAM family: a new target for monitoring or treating cancers?


The cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) family includes more than 50 proteins with four main groups: immunoglobulin (Ig)-like CAMs, cadherins, selectins, and integrins.


A lot of cellular functions are directly linked to cell adhesion as signal transduction, cellular communication and recognition, embryogenesis, inflammatory and immune responses, apoptosis and some of them also act as viral receptors [Cohen MB, Am J Clin Pathol. 1997, 107(1):56-63].


The metastatic dissemination of tumor cells is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with cancer since it designates the transition from a localized, potentially curable to a generalized, usually incurable disease [Makrilia N, Cancer Invest. 2009, 27(10)].


Across the years, it has become evident that the adhesion properties of neoplastic cells play a pivotal role in the development and progression of cancer. [Okegawa T, Acta Biochim Pol. 2004;51(2):445-57] [Windisch R, Cancers 2019, 11(3), 311].


Changes in the expression or function of the CAMs have been associated with alterations in the adhesive or signaling status of tumor cells, allowing them to acquire a more motile and invasive phenotype prognostic biomarkers or as potential therapeutic targets in malignancies


Additionally, mainly of CAMs can be cleaved and released by proteolytic cleavage activity, and their soluble forms were found increased in serum levels of cancer patients. Even if elevated level of soluble CAM is observed also in bacterial and viral infections or in acute inflammation, some of them has been identified to be interesting prognostic marker of cancer progression, as EpCAM, described to be upregulated in colorectal cancer with clinical relevance [Han S, Ebiomedicine 2017; 20:61–69].